Collection of obsolete of audio and video tape machines for digitisation

Over a several years, Great Bear has been collecting and restoring old audio and video tape machines. By trawling through the online car boot sale that is ebay, or travelling round the country to visit real ones, the collection has built up over time and now constitutes over seventy working machines and forty other machines that are used for spare parts and testing.

Amazingly, a good amount of the machines we have acquired have cost absolutely nothing: its all about having the canny knack of being in the right place at the right time, and knowing the right people. On several occasions we have been given fully functioning machines by film production houses who have been forced to make the latest technological transition because of changing industry standards. So what happens to these machines when their built-in obsolescence comes home to roost? They are either chucked in a skip, sold on ebay to a limited and sometimes lucrative market, or they are given to people like us who are continuing to make good use of them.

To  give you a picture of how quickly technological and, consequently, monetary value changes, consider this brief example. In 1991 the value of a Sony BVW D75 was $32,000 (or $52,037/ £32,920 in today’s money), but today it is worth absolutely nothing. Despite their lack of monetary value in today’s market economy, videotape machines from the 70s, 80s and 90s are exceptionally well made. They were built to last and were designed for heavy use in editing suites, where tape was freeze framed, rewound and played back again and again on a daily basis.

Yet as technology develops, there is no more need for the AMPEX BVW 75, Panasonic MII, Sony U-matic VTR BVU-800 and others like them. These machines become inoperable artifacts, casualties of a market and quality driven, technological evolution .

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[…] catch on as widely as it deserves to, Great Bear will continue to collect, maintain and repair old equipment until the very last tape head on earth is worn […]

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